Plaster and Poison



Inheriting her aunt’s old Maine cottage has led Avery Baker down a new career path–home renovation. Finding a property’s hidden potential has rewards and challenges – not to mention certain unanticipated dangers. Like murder…

Local bed and breakfast owner Kate McGillicutty and Waterfield Police Chief Wayne Rasmussen are finally tying the knot. They’ve asked Avery and her boyfriend, Derek, to renovate an old carriage house behind the B&B. It’s a daunting task, but Avery plans on remaking the relic into a romantic Parisian-style retreat.

But the course of true love–and home repair–rarely runs smooth. As proven when Avery stumbles across a lifeless body in the carriage house. And now, Avery’s to-do list reads: find wallpaper…lay insulation…solve murder!


Wayne’s sudden attack of modesty came at a great time, at least where Derek and I were concerned.

It was the first week of November, and we had just finished renovating our latest project, a mid-century ranch on the outskirts of Waterfield. Now we were waiting for someone to buy it, so we could find another fixer-upper and do the whole thing over again. Derek had his eye on a run-down 1783 center-chimney Colonial on an island off the coast, only accessible by ferry, but until we got our money out of the house on Becklea Drive, another purchase wasn’t in the cards for us. Unfortunately, since Derek was twitching with impatience to get started. I was more sanguine about the matter, since I didn’t really want to spend the winter freezing my butt off on an island off the coast of Maine, with nothing but 225-year-old walls between me and the elements. I wasn’t opposed to buying and renovating the place—in fact, it might be fun—but I wanted to do it four months from now, when the days were longer and the temperatures higher.

“That’s fine,” Derek said impatiently, “but what are we going to do in the meantime? I don’t want your mom to get here in December and find me sitting on the sofa watching TV and scratching my stomach. It wouldn’t make a very good first impression.”

Considering that the stomach in question was a lovely example of smooth skin and taut muscle, I didn’t think my mother would mind too much. However, I shrugged apologetically, knowing that what I was about to suggest would annoy him.

“You could take on some handyman jobs. I know you don’t want to do those anymore, but it would keep you busy over the winter, until we could start working on the house on the island, and it would help to pay the bills. People are always asking you to do things for them.”

“That’s true,” Derek said grudgingly, although he obviously felt that after spending the summer and autumn renovating houses of our own, laying tile in other people’s bathrooms and painting other people’s walls would be a waste of his considerable talent. I had to agree, I just didn’t know what else to suggest.

At this point, I had lived in Waterfield for five months, since I inherited my great-aunt Inga’s house in late May. Derek Ellis was the handyman I’d hired to help me renovate the decrepit Victorian cottage. He’d done so, beautifully, and swept me off my feet at the same time.

I was crazy about him—crazy enough to put my New York design career on hold to join Derek in his business, Waterfield Renovation & Restoration—and he seemed to like me well enough, too. I couldn’t wait to show him off to my mom and stepfather when they came to Waterfield from California in December.

“And I wouldn’t worry too much about what my mom and Noel will think of you,” I added. “After Philippe, anyone will be an improvement.”

Philippe was my ex-boyfriend, the one I’d left behind in Manhattan when I moved to Maine. Derek had met him once, and taken an instant dislike to him. So had my mother, who claimed that he was too good-looking and flirtatious to be trustworthy. She’d hit the nail squarely on the head, as it turned out. He wasn’t trustworthy. But since he was history, that was all water under the bridge at this point.

“I’m not sure that’s a point in my favor,” Derek said.

I rolled my eyes. “Give me a break. You’re handsome, you’re nice, you’re successful, and you treat me a damned sight better than Philippe ever did. What’s not to like?”

“I’m a lapsed M.D.,” Derek answered dryly, “I’m not always nice, and at the moment, I have no work. All I’ve got going for me is my looks, and you said yourself that your mom thought Phil was too good-looking. What if she says the same about me?”

“She won’t.”

He arched his brows in mock insult. “What? You’re saying I’m not as good-looking as Phil?”

I inspected him across the table, with at least an attempt at impartiality. He’s 34 years old, with sun-streaked hair in need of a cut, and blue eyes with long lashes and crinkles at the corners. As I watched, a slow grin curved his cheeks and brought out a latent dimple. A faded denim shirt completed the picture; it matched his eyes, and had the sleeves rolled up to the elbows to bare nicely muscled forearms with a dusting of fair hair. As usual, my stomach did a flip-flop, and I had to concentrate to keep my voice steady.

“It’s not that you’re not cute. But you’ve seen Philippe. Leather pants, satin shirt, pony-tail… like he stepped off the cover of some kind of vampire romance. You’re not flashy, thank God.”

“God forbid,” Derek answered piously, but not without a regenerate twinkle in his eyes. He leaned forward, causing a strand of sun-streaked hair to fall across his forehead, and gave me a melting smile. “So you think I’m cute, huh?”


“Want to go upstairs and show me just how cute you think I am?” He winked.

I smiled, but before things could develop, there was a knock at the front door.

“Expecting someone?” Derek asked, straightening. I shook my head. “I’ll go.”

He pushed the chair back and headed for the door. I watched him walk away, and thought that while he may not have Philippe’s—Phil’s—in-your-face sex-appeal, there is nothing wrong with either his looks or his ability to garner attention from the opposite sex. He’d have no problem charming my mother. He’d had no problem charming me, and I’d been deep into a hating-all-men-phase when I met him.


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